NEW Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

With bed space running out for critically ill Covid-19 patients, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley this afternoon announced the following Covid restrictions to reduce the spread of the virus.

From midnight tonight, T&T will be under a State of Emergency (SoE).

It involves a curfew will be from 9p.m to 5a.m.

The length of the State of Emergency will be determined by the response of citizens, who had not all followed the public health ordinance and continued to flout the regulations.

The police would now be empowered to act against those who breached the provisions of the SoE.

If you don’t have to be out for exempted reason, you stay home under force of law, he said.

He said T&T had tried to avoid this eventuality, but had clearly failed.

“I’m sorry it has come to coffins and the faces of dead people, to realize that we have always been in a  very difficult place.”

He said the new measures were meant to prevent a situation where people sick with the virus were not even able to access health care, and were dying for want of oxygen.

Essential services remain open

Face to face contact in schools has been suspended with immediate effect. The Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) is still on schedule.

Essential services will continue to operate but the rest of the country will be “virtually shut down”, the prime minister said.

The latest decisions were taken at a high-profile meeting on Saturday morning, which included the Attorney General, Ministry of Health and other stakeholders.

The prime minister’s announcements came after the country recorded its highest Covid-19 positive cases in recent days. The highest death toll was recorded on Thursday with 21 deaths in 24 hours. The Ministry of Health reported nine deaths on Friday, along with 565 new positive cases.

Rowley said the energy sector, food supply chain, pharmacies, public and private transport will remain exempted. And there is no need to panic buy, he said.

The Ministry of National Security, he said, will ensure that citizens remain indoor under the force of the law.

He said, “Now that we are at a situation where the reports are that we are, even with the parallel health system, we are running out of bed space for those who require a far firmer response at the individual level to make sure that as we are running out of space we now have to be even more corperative than we were last year April. Today in Trinidad and Tobago we have a population that is running scared. I woke up yesterday and people were telling me to press the panic button. I am sorry but it has come to coffins and faces of dead people for us to realise that we are in and always has been in a very difficult place.”

Out of beds

Before the prime minister’s announcement, Principal Medical Officer at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Maryam Abdool-Richards said the country’s parallel health care system was now at a critical stage.

She said the health care system was at a “touch and go” stage, with a 73 per cent occupancy at hospitals in Trinidad.

Abdool-Richards said all Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds were occupied, with 95 per cent occupancy in the High Dependency Unit (HDU).

Hospital ward beds, she said, was now at 66 per cent capacity.

“This increasing hospitalization level really is a cause of concern because at this rate we are basically out of hospital beds and if you require care you will not be receiving the best level of care,” she said.

And epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds said 43 of every 100 people being tested were now coming back with a positive result.

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Barataria/San Juan MP Saddam Hosein yesterday wrote to WASA’s executive director Lennox Sealey urging him to suspend the drive and display humanity as people are suffering and strapped for cash in the pandemic given the lockdowns.

The same UNC people calling on the Government to instruct WASA to hold its hand on debt collection are the same ones who complain in the Parliament and elsewhere that they constituents are not getting water.

“You cannot have it both ways. You cannot have your cake and eat it,” Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales said yesterday, as he responded to calls from several UNC MPs to grant a moratorium on the payment of water rates and stop its disconnection drive during the pandemic because people are under pressure.

Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith is reminding citizens that patrols will be out prior to and during the enforcement of this weekend’s extended curfew.

In a media release issued yesterday, Griffith noted the actions and comments of “social media trained law enforcement experts”, who appeared to be questioning the rationale in implementing roadblocks throughout the country.

Smooth sailing.

Braving inclement weather, Barataria resident Kenneth Campbell, 84, boasted he had gotten his second Sinopharm vaccine at Barataria Health Centre yesterday.

While awaiting his driver, Campbell, father of late forest ranger Keith Campbell (who was killed in the line of duty in 2016), said: “The first vaccine, I got was from a man. I did not feel it. The second vaccine was from a woman, and I felt it. It went well.”

Starting Wednesday and yesterday, he was among thousands of elderly citizens (age 65 and up) who got vaccines under the Health Ministry’s “Triple E System—the Elderly Express Experience.”

Time is critical if you are searching for a missing loved one.

Kelvin Ballantyne had been missing for about three months from his Tobago home before his family members in Trinidad were informed that he had disappeared.

Kelvin, also known as “Redman”, is described by his sister, Cindy Noel, as “one of the most well-known people in Lambeau, and maybe even across the island because of his job as an electrician”.